What should I put in my container?

Start with a good potting mix. It really should be fresh every year and re-using old mix is a false economy. Not only are the drainage characteristics altered considerably by the long dry period since last year, the chances are good you'll get significant carry-over of pests and diseases. Be sure to find a mix you like: we've been highly disappointed by the poor quality of most retail mixes, especially some of the biggest brand names. Decide whether your container will be for sun or shade (or some of each) because lighting directs your choice of plants. Petunias, for example, really need about 5 hours of good sun per day. The most difficult light environment of all is the west-facing garden, or even worse ... porch. These are totally shady until mid- or late-afternoon and then ka-BLAM as they're clobbered by the full force of the sun. If that's what you're dealing with, your best results will probably come from dragon-wing begonias. They're limited, but they survive. Choose the colors you think will work with your home and exterior décor. Then consider the basic design, which is built around three key elements:
  • The central focus. It needs some height, and some 'pop,' usually from color. This is your Thriller.
  • Then you need mid-level interest so your thriller doesn't look like a corn-stalk. These plants are bushy or they weave themselves amongst other plants. This is your Filler.
  • Finally, you'll add something to trail over the edges of the container so it integrates well with its locale. These plants might have flowers, or they might simply have interesting foliage. We have plenty of each. This is your Spiller.
That's all there is too it -- Thriller, Filler, and Spiller -- and if you've chosen the right plants for your light conditions, and the best colors for your exterior decoration scheme ... you've got it.